My choice for online essay of the week is from the most recent issue of Dialogue, Ecclesiastical Polity and the Challenge of Homosexuality: Two Cases of Divergence within the Mormon Tradition, by O Kendall White Jr. and Daryl White. The authors are visibly sympathetic to the RLDS move to the left and unhappy with the LDS move to the right over the last century, but that perspective is nothing new. The divergence they are writing about is actually in the eccesiastical polities or governance paradigms of the two denominations, not simply the SSA policies. The article is much more interesting than I expected from the title!
TWO POINTS IN PARTICULAR caught my interest: (1) the details of the discussion of LDS policy from the ERA and California Prop 22 campaigns, p. 74-79, and (2) the RLDS vs. LDS comparison, which is often used to frame conservative LDS positions in a negative way but just doesn't carry much impact since the RLDS Church (or Community of Christ) has gone into decline and, more recently, into meltdown. I find it hard to even accept the notion that the RLDS Church is "within the Mormon tradition" in the full sense anymore. It's odd that you have to call them by their old name (RLDS) just so people know who you're talking about! Perhaps the term "the church formerly known as RLDS" would show the proper sensitivity to their decision to change their organizational self-identification while still letting people know what you're talking about. And let's not forget that Prince, the one who started it all, is now "the artist formerly known as the artist who was formerly known as Prince." Name changes aren't always a good idea.
The article is an easy read. Two quick quotes: "We believe that General Authorities in the LDS Church are more conservative than the general membership while the general membership in the Community of Christ is more conservative than the leadership" (p. 88-89). That's worth mulling over a bit. Their last sentence: "While the Community of Christ, in both theology and social policy, moves closer to liberal Protestantism, the Latter-day Saints, in both theology and social policy, move ever closer to Protestant fundamentalism" (p. 89).